Mt.Hurd, PlayBoy Bunny (North Face), IV 600m+
FA- Maurice “Maury” Perreault, spring 2011
Mostly hidden from the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park, this hidden gem is definitely worthy of attention. Comparable to the north face of Popes Peak, this route is best seen from the Parks Canada Operations Compound / Staff accommodation located 4.5km west of Field, BC on the north side of the road. Drive to the end of a short road to the staff accommodation and look south. The first ascentionist was a Parks employee who observed the route every morning for several weeks before climbing it in a 19 hour push when a freeze was in the forecast. A bivy is highly recommended. The route is also visible from a few spots along Emerald Lake Road. It is named “Playboy Bunny” due to a treeless eroded feature found on the western slopes of the mountain that resembles the famous icon, clearly seen from the highway, and known by most locals. A Canadian postage stamp of the mountain was issued in 1928. Other rock and mixed routes are to be climbed for those seeking a new adventure.
Park at the trailhead for the Ottertail Fireroad trail. From the parking lot, cross the bridge over Hwy. 1 to access the west side of the river. Avoid side hilling along the river; instead gain some elevation after leaving the highway until you reach flat ground and somewhat open forest. Beware of an old barbed wire fence. Once on level ground, follow the edge of steep slopes dropping down towards the river, following the occasional animal trail and zig-zagging to avoid deadfall. Once the going seems harder than it should be, but before it becomes horrible, gain some 50m to a second “bench” which is traversed all the way to Frenchman Creek. With some luck you might find a very old trail that is an ancient mining road. This remnant of a trail offers easier travel, but is not worth the effort of searching for it. After reaching Frenchman Creek, the elevation gain begins. Follow the creek hopping on whichever side seems to offer less resistance. The south side of the creek seems to have less shrubbery. The creek is followed to its end – a lovely alpine pond and excellent bivy site – sitting directly below the face.
Another option, which was used as a descent for ice climb “Lost in the Mansion”, is to follow Frenchman Creek all the way to the Ottertail River. 100m upstream of the creek, the river is wider and affords a crossing being knee deep. This might be dependent on water levels, and 150m of elevation is lost going from the Ottertail Fire Road to the river. This approach might be the better of the two options, but both require some degree of suffering. Approach 4-6 hours.
This route splits the North Face in half via a steep couloir. Note that in early season this route sports a large cornice that appears much smaller from the valley bottom. There is no glacier travel to access the route. From the bivy site, immediately gain snow or scree slopes until the terrain steepens up. This approach might be on avalanche debris, or following the top of the moraine later in the season. In early season the lower part of the route consists of mixed terrain featuring snow, ice and rock and requires wandering thru weaknesses. In the summer months, difficult scrambling and a few rock steps (easy 5th) can be climbed directly and look like they would offer good rock with options for protection. In early October 2011, a line of ice appeared covering the upper rock steps below the couloir and might offer the most aesthetic climbing. Once the lower portions are past, enter a sustained, steep left trending snow couloir. Climb this uninterrupted feature to its top, easily exiting on the left of the cornice to a level area to give the calves a much needed rest. Follow the snow slope and short ridge feature minding possible cornices to the top. Retrace your steps and rappel and/or down climb the route. Rappel stations have not yet been added, but would be a welcome addition . The FA descended via Finn Creek and was faced with complex terrain, one tricky rappel and very bad bushwhacking. This descent is not recommended. Only climb this route with a good freeze that will allow an easy descent back to your bivy site.